DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Travis Pastrana needed to stick his Toyota with all four wheels on the track — not hurled through the air in a death-defying stunt in much the same way he made his name — to pull off one more thrill in his motorsports career.
For a moment, Pastrana had a run at a Daytona 500 victory in his grasp.
But for all his X Games gold and motocross triumphs, it’s Pastrana’s highlight-worthy crashes, laundry list of broken bones and frightening falls that stamped him as a no-limits action star favorite.
So, it seemed fitting Pastrana’s Daytona 500 ended Sunday night in a wreck.
“Did someone get into me or did I spin on my own,” Pastrana asked nearby fans from a golf cart.
The fans who waited for Pastrana in the garage let him know, another driver smacked into his Toyota.
Good to know, Pastrana assured them. Then he pondered his circumstances from this week — ones that took Pastrana from having to qualify just to make the Daytona 500, to a shot at the checkered flag, to a solid 11th in a one-off race — and it felt almost as good as gold.
“Dude, how cool was that? Coming to the line with one lap to go and in the hunt,” Pastrana said.
Pretty cool, indeed. The 39-year-old Pastrana made the hard-charge after he started last in his first NASCAR start in a decade. Pastrana deftly avoided trouble in his No. 67 Toyota and even led a couple of laps.
“Yeah! I led a lap at the Daytona 500,” Pastrana gushed.
Pastrana make his long-coveted attempt to race the Daytona 500 this year in an entry fielded by 23XI Racing and sponsored by Black Rifle Coffee. The Toyota was a third entry for the NASCAR team owned by Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin, and gave the decorated driver the chance to fulfill his career dream.
“He survived, I guess,” Hamlin said. “But I think I saw some sparks there at the end. But, yeah, it was what we wanted him to do: Get a bunch of laps and enjoy the day, and I think he ran all of them.”
With massive fan appeal that stretches back to his X Games glory, Pastrana was a rock star around the track this week. Sure enough, bros flocked to greet him in the garage and mingled around a Toyota about as mangled as some of his body parts after a stunt gone awry.
Pastrana couldn’t stay for long. He had a mandatory trip to the medical center.
“Can I have your hat now?” one fan asked
“How about your water bottle?” another wanted.
How about a sigh of relief Pastrana finished in one piece. His wife, Lyn-Z, a skateboarder, snowboarder and also an X Games medalist, said the entire Daytona experience was “an unknown” for the family.
“Exciting but very nerve-wracking,” she said. “I was all about it. It’s always been on his bucket list, so I was like, ‘OK, here we go.’ I was surprised that he could make it happen this year, so it was fun.”
Pastrana had won all there was to win in supercross, motocross, freestyle motocross, rally racing and, most recently, offshore powerboat racing. But as his groundbreaking career started to creep toward the finish — the father of two turns 40 this year — Pastrana couldn’t let go of his desire to race the Daytona 500.
Pastrana attempted a NASCAR career a decade ago and raced the full Xfinity Series schedule in 2013 for Roush Fenway Racing. But he struggled far more than he expected and sponsorship dried up.
So, he put the Daytona 500 on the backburner.
Craving one more run at NASCAR glory, Pastrana landed sponsorship and took a deal to 23XI because of an existing friendship with Kurt Busch and others inside the organization.
He even joked he had to spend his kids’ college fund to cover some of the expense.
“The car’s not a complete write-off, so the kids’ college fund should be intact,” he said, laughing. “This exceeded all my expectations as far as result.”
Saying he was “not good enough to be the best at this sport,” Pastrana insisted his Cup career was a one-and-done venture.
“The amount of time it would take right now, I’m trying to slow down,” Pastrana said. “The reason I’m here is because I felt like this was the best I’ve ever been as a driver. We’ve been winning championships in the dirt. I just wanted to experience the whole Daytona speedweeks.”
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